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Directions in Highway Safety, Fall 2008 Cover Page Download Newsletter pdf
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Fall 2008 | Vol. 11 | No. 3

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Study Reveals Teen Belt Use Low for Drivers and Passengers

A new State Farm-funded study reveals that both teen drivers and teen passengers buckle up at alarmingly low rates. The study, "Driver and Passenger Seatbelt Use Among U.S. High School Students," is one of the first efforts to detail the different use rates between teen drivers and teen passengers.

According to the study, 59 percent of students always wear seatbelts when driving, but only 42 percent always buckle up as passengers. A concordant analysis showed that only 38 percent of students always wear seat belts both when driving and while riding as a passenger. To obtain these statistics, researchers analyzed data from the national Youth Risk Behavior Surveys administered in 2001-2003. These surveys are unique because they included questions about both driver and passenger seatbelt use. Typically, surveys only cover drivers.

To highlight how low the use rate is for both teen drivers and teen passengers, the researchers compared the data with the use rate of the general population. According to data from the 2002 National Occupant Protection Use Survey (NOPUS), 76 percent of drivers and 73 percent of front-seat passengers wore seatbelts, compared with 24 percent of backseat passengers 20 years of age or older.

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To address this problem, the researchers indicate that the passage of full-coverage seat belt legislation in all states would be a significant step. Currently, only a minority of states uniformly require teen motorvehicle occupants in the rear seat to wear seat belts. The researchers note that these laws would need to be visibly enforced and that community-based interventions and peer-to-peer educational efforts might also augment seat belt use.

To review the study in depth, visit: